By Peter Sibon
KUCHING, Nov 23: Minister of Transport Datuk Lee Kim Shin today assures 791 school bus operators in Sarawak not to be in despair as his ministry will take up their proposals in order to remain afloat as a result of income loss due to Covid-19 pandemic.
He added that his ministry would be reaching out to them and hoped they could forward their proposals through online and other forms of communication to overcome the restrictions of Covid-19 standard operating procedure (SOP) compliance.
“Do not be in despair. Our officers will listen and talk to their representatives through online meetings or they can write to us with their proposals,” Lee told DayakDaily here today.
He was responding to the plight of sixteen school bus operators from Jalan Dato Mohd Musa/Jalan Muara Tuang who have expressed their concerns over uncertainties of their livelihood as a result of restricted movements due to Covid-19 pandemic since March this year.
Their spokesman, Jimmy Holiday Ambang highlighted that it would not be feasible for many of them to continue operations as they are burdened with numerous operational cost with most of them having to fork out an average of RM1,000-RM1,500 per month to maintain their vehicles even during school closure period since March 2020, when the Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced.
Jimmy had said, most of them have switched jobs to make ends meet and even have to pay the salaries of their drivers and their Employees Provident Fund contributions.
He also hoped that the wage subsidy programme under Social Security Organisation (Socso) could be extended to them.
A group of them highlighted their predicament to Habitat For Indigenous and Urban Program (Hidup) president George Young Si Ricord Jr during their meeting yesterday.
According to George, the group lamented that since school closed when the Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced in March, and even when they reopened in July, there was a huge drop in students taking school buses.
Facing such a predicament, George hoped that the State authorities, especially the State Ministry of Transportation can allocate a one-off RM1,200 payment or other financial aid during the current Enhanced MCO to school bus operators, until the reopening of schools in March next year.
George also hoped that the relevant authorities accord school bus operators, the same treatment that e-hailing and taxi drivers were getting.
“These bus operators seem to have fallen through the cracks within the system as the authorities failed to provide a respite during this uncertain times. Besides, all school buses/vans are required to undergo twice a year Puspakom mandatory check,” said George in a statement issued here today. — DayakDaily